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Vegan Planet: February 2008

Thursday, February 28, 2008


A Spontaneous Shepherd’s Pie

Usually, the combination of cold weather and leftover mashed potatoes inspire me to make a Shepherd’s Pie. Yesterday I had one – the cold weather – but not the other. What I did have was a small piece of seitan and some leftover green beans, and that was enough to get me started. For the potato topping, I microwaved 3 medium-sized potatoes until soft, leaving the skin on. While the potatoes were in the microwave, I chopped some onion and cut a carrot into small dice and sautéed them until soft. I then I chopped the seitan and placed it in the bottom of a baking dish along with the leftover green beans, which I already cut into bite-sized pieces. I added some frozen corn kernels and frozen peas and set it aside to make the sauce. By the time the sauce was made the potatoes were cooked.

After coarsely mashing the potatoes with a bit of soy milk, margarine, and salt and pepper, I mixed the sauce into the vegetables and seitan. Then I spooned the mashed potatoes on top and smoothed it out evenly. After sprinkling the snowy top with paprika, I baked it in a preheated 375-degree F. oven for 30 minutes. It was so good that it was hard not to eat the entire casserole between the two of us. We finished up the leftovers for lunch today and enjoyed it all over again.

Here’s the basic recipe that I used, but if you don’t have seitan, you can use chopped cooked tempeh, chopped veggie burgers or frozen crumbles, or simply add a cup and a half of cooked chickpeas.

Simple Shepherd’s Pie
This recipe is an adaptation of Ultimate Shepherd’s Pie in Vegan Planet. Since the sauce can be made while the veggies are cooking and the potatoes are in the microwave, it can be assembled in a very short amount of time.

3 red-skinned or Yukon Gold potatoes, well scrubbed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped seitan
1 cup cooked green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces (optional)
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
2 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons tamari soy sauce
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1 teaspoon minced fresh marjoram or 1/2 teaspoon dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 2 tablespoons cold water
1/4 cup soy milk
1 tablespoon Earth Balance margarine
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Microwave the potatoes until tender.
2. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot. Cover and cook until tender. Set aside.
3. Spread the seitan, green beans (if using), peas, and corn in the bottom of a shallow baking dish. Add the reserved onion and carrot and set aside.
4. Heat the vegetable stock in the same saucepan you used to cook the onion and carrot and bring to a boil. Stir in the tamari, thyme, marjoram, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and simmer, stirring, to thicken slightly.
5. Pour the sauce over the filling mixture and set aside.
6. When the potatoes are soft, mash them in a bowl with the soy milk, margarine, and salt and pepper, to taste. Spread the mashed potatoes on top of the casserole and sprinkle with paprika. Bake until hot and bubbly and the top is golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Serves 4

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Thursday, February 21, 2008


Of Sambars and “Dosadillas”

If you haven’t seen the gorgeous photo of my recipe for red lentil sambar taken by Susan at Fat-Free Vegan, be sure to check it out — she posted the recipe, too.
This particular sambar recipe is in Vegan Fire & Spice and is special to me for several reasons. I adapted it from a family recipe given to me by my dear friend, Sangeeta Kumar, who got it from her aunt Anshu. Another reason is that I now live in an area where there are no Indian restaurants and it’s great to have some yummy Indian recipes handy when I need a fix.

All sambars aren’t created equal. Most of the ones I’ve sampled in restaurants are thin and soupy and usually served with idllis or dosas. When I make sambar at home, I sometimes like to serve it as the main event. In that case, I make it a little thicker and cut the vegetables a little larger, so it turns out more like a stew than a soup. I serve it over basmati rice and enjoy it as a main dish. I usually serve a thinner version when I make “dosadillas” — my quick and easy dosa/quesadilla hybrid that I make with leftover cooked potatoes and tortillas. This photo shows one of my curried potato dosadillas with a side of “soupy” sambar. To make the thinner soupier sambar, you can still use the same recipe, just cut the veggies a little smaller, and add more liquid as you simmer the sambar. Here’s my recipe for “dosadillas.”

Potato “Dosadillas”
South India meets Mexico in this dosa-quesadilla hybrid that I created one day with “on-hand” ingredients. It gave me a quick Indian food fix with a minimum of effort. If you have some leftover cooked veggies that you’d like to add instead of the peas, chop them and mix them in with the potatoes. Use hot or mild curry paste or powder, according to taste. Serve with mint or tamarind chutney, raita, or a vegetable sambar. (Recipe from Quick-Fix Vegetarian by Robin Robertson © 2007.)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons minced scallions or onion
1 1/2 cups cooked potatoes, mashed (see note below)
1/2 cup frozen baby peas, thawed
2 teaspoons curry paste or powder (or to taste)
4 large whole wheat tortillas

Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the scallions and cook until softened. Add the potatoes, peas, and curry paste and cook until well mixed and hot.

Divide the mixture evenly over half of each of the tortillas. Fold the tortillas over and place them, two at a time, in a large non-stick skillet or griddle over medium-heat. Cook until lightly browned on both sides, turning once. Keep them warm while you cook the remaining dosadillas. Serve them whole to be cut with a knife and fork, or cut them into wedges to eat out of hand.

Serves 4

Note: The mashed potatoes can come from a variety of sources: you can plan ahead and make extra baked or mashed potatoes for dinner the night before. If there was ever a reason to make extra potatoes, this is it. If you don’t have cooked potatoes on hand, you can quickly microwave some, and then simply mash them with a potato masher, adding salt and pepper and a little margarine.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


My Special Valentine’s Day Dinner

I decided to make my special Valentine’s Day dinner a day early so it would be available for anyone who may want to make all or part of it for their own Valentine celebration.

There’s nothing quick and easy about the prep. Lots of cutting things into heart shapes, which is time consuming, but, hey, that’s what makes it special. I have heart-shaped cookie cutters somewhere, but I can’t find them since moving last Spring, so I cut everything free-hand.

The “Here’s My Heart Salad” features artichoke hearts, romaine hearts, hearts of palm, and heart-shaped red beets. You can use your favorite dressing -- I used a vegan Caesar, but a balsamic or raspberry vinaigrette would be nice to cast a rosy glow.

For the Wellingtons, I cut seitan and portobello caps cut into heart shapes and sautéed them and let them cool. I then stacked them and wrapped them in a piece of puff pastry that I shaped like a heart and baked them at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes.

At the last minute, I decided to pierce the pastry with an asparagus “arrow” (cute, huh? My husband thinks I go overboard.) The sauce is a red wine sauce.

The heart-shaped potatoes were cut out of a large russet and roasted with olive oil and salt and pepper. I placed a roasted red bell pepper heart on each slice of potato.

For dessert, I made a small plain cheesecake and then enrobed it with melted chocolate. The garnish on top is some heart-shaped cherry jam topped with a chocolate-cherry truffle, that I shaped into a heart, and “iced” with vegan cream cheese. More truffles and some dried cherries complete the effect.

Okay, so I told you about my special dinner – now I’d like to hear about your Vegan Valentines celebration.

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Early Valentines

For me, Valentine’s Day came early this year. I’m feeling the love from how word about Vegan Fire and Spice is spreading around the blogosphere. Check out the great review on Soul Veggie. On Eat Air, you can find a photo and comments about my recipe for Tofu & Broccoli with Hoisin Ginger Sauce. Vegalicious gave VF&S a nice shout-out as did Amy at the VegCooking blog. (Links to these sites are in my blogroll.) In her February newsletter, Vegetarian Kitchen Recipes & News, fellow cookbook author Nava Atlas has posted several recipes from Vegan Fire &Spice. Vegan Yum Yum and several other notable bloggers, have added a link to my new blog to their blogroll – and my blog (and new book) have only been around for about a month! Thanks to all for the great feedback and your kind words – better than a box of vegan chocolates!

Monday, February 11, 2008


My Last Butternut Squash

After a week of unseasonably warm temperatures, the cold weather is back and along with it, my desire for a comforting stew. I wanted to use my last remaining butternut squash that I picked months earlier from my now-frozen vegetable garden. A richly flavored African stew sounded like a good match. I adapted this stew from the recipe for North African Pumpkin Stew in Vegan Fire and Spice. In straying from the recipe, I enriched the sauce with a bit of peanut butter, added a lonely sweet potato that was languishing in the fridge, and topped it with some steamed baby spinach, because we love our greens and also because spinach goes so well with the flavors in this stew. Served over brown rice, the result was a delicious one-dish meal that tasted even better when we had it for lunch the next day.

Butternut Tribute Stew
This yummy stew was a fitting tribute to my last garden-grown squash from the fall. The recipe was adapted from Vegan Fire & Spice. If you don’t like heat, just omit the chiles.

2 tablespoons cold-pressed canola oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 small, fresh hot chiles, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1 small winter squash, seeded, peeled, and cut into bite-sized cubes
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar, or a natural sweetener
2 cups water or vegetable broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (15.5-ounce) can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
Cooked brown rice or couscous, to serve
4 cups fresh baby spinach, steamed

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, cover, and cook until tender, about 7 minutes. Add the garlic, chiles, ginger, cinnamon, cumin, and allspice, and cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes. Add the squash and sweet potato and toss until evenly coated with the spices. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, water, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Add the beans, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 45 minutes. A few minutes before serving time, remove about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and place it in a small bowl. Add the peanut butter and stir to combine, then stir the peanut butter mixture back into the stew. To serve, spoon some rice into the bottom of shallow serving bowls. Top with the stew and place a small mound of steamed spinach on top.
Serves 4

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008


Quick-Fix Veg*n

I’ve had several people ask me if the recipes in my book Quick-Fix Vegetarian are vegan, and I’m happy to say “Yes! the fast-and-easy recipes in Quick-Fix Vegetarian are vegan. I’m sorry for any confusion and I hope lacto-ovo-vegetarians and omnivores, too, will discover how delicious (and quick) these recipes are. I’ve been very pleased with the great compliments Quick-Fix Vegetarian has received. Here are a few:

Thankfully, Robin Robertson understands that recipes don’t need to be complicated, voluminous, or inaccessible to be delicious....The simplicity of these 150 recipes is what makes them perfect.
--VegNews Magazine

If you think being vegetarian is boring, then read this book! It’s full of mouth-watering recipes that are quick and easy to prepare, making it a perfect introduction to vegetarian living.

People who rarely cook but wish they could put more time into homemade meals will find Quick-Fix Vegetarian a genuine treasure.

Most people live a hectic lifestyle these days, and any quick-and-easy vegetarian cookbook is greatly appreciated.
--Vegetarian Journal

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Friday, February 1, 2008


Valentine's Day Dinner -- Over the top?

I must be a romantic at heart, but there’s something about Valentines Day that makes me want to prepare what some may consider an over-the-top theme dinner. Each year I try to outdo myself, setting parameters such as all the food has to be red, or all the food has to be heart-shaped. One year I tried for both, and it was a bit extreme, even for me.

This year, I’m going with a “heart” theme, too – everything I serve has to have “heart” in either it’s name or shape. I’m posting the menu now. I’ll post photos of the results on February 14th:

Valentine’s Menu
Here’s My Heart Salad
(artichoke hearts, romaine hearts, hearts of palm and heart-shaped red beets)
Heart-Shaped Wellingtons
(sauteed seitan and portobello cap cut in heart shape and layered between heart-shaped puff pastry and baked)
Roasted Heart-Shaped Potatoes and Red Bell Peppers
Vegan Chocolate Cheesecake topped with Chocolate Cherry Truffles
(I’ll shape the truffles like little hearts)

Let me know what you think of my menu or share one of your own.

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